Leadership – Conscious Manager – Online Magazine http://conscious-manager.com A holistic approach to self, business and life. Mon, 29 Jul 2019 12:33:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? http://conscious-manager.com/why-do-so-many-incompetent-men-become-leaders.html http://conscious-manager.com/why-do-so-many-incompetent-men-become-leaders.html#respond Tue, 15 Sep 2015 19:08:59 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=1278 lady leaders

There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, according to https://ritubhasin.com/ when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.

This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women. In line, Freud argued that the psychological process of leadership occurs because a group of people — the followers — have replaced their own narcissistic tendencies with those of the leader, such that their love for the leader is a disguised form of self-love, or a substitute for their inability to love themselves. “Another person’s narcissism”, he said, “has a great attraction for those who have renounced part of their own… as if we envied them for maintaining a blissful state of mind.”

The truth of the matter is that pretty much anywhere in the world men tend to think that they that are much smarter than women. Yet arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas in order to work for the common interest of the group. Indeed, whether in sports, politics or business, the best leaders are usually humble — and whether through nature or nurture, humility is a much more common feature in women than men. For example, women outperform men on emotional intelligence, which is a strong driver of modest behaviors. Furthermore, a quantitative review of gender differences in personality involving more than 23,000 participants in 26 cultures indicated that women are more sensitive, considerate, and humble than men, which is arguably one of the least counter-intuitive findings in the social sciences. An even clearer picture emerges when one examines the dark side of personality: for instance, our normative data, which includes thousands of managers from across all industry sectors and 40 countries, shows that men are consistently more arrogant, manipulative and risk-prone than women.

The paradoxical implication is that the same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not just different from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.

Unsurprisingly, the mythical image of a “leader” embodies many of the characteristics commonly found in personality disorders, such as narcissism (Steve Jobs or Vladimir Putin), psychopathy (fill in the name of your favorite despot here), histrionic (Richard Branson or Steve Ballmer) or Machiavellian (nearly any federal-level politician) personalities. The sad thing is not that these mythical figures are unrepresentative of the average manager, but that the average manager will fail precisely for having these characteristics.

In fact, most leaders — whether in politics or business — fail. That has always been the case: the majority of nations, companies, societies and organizations are poorly managed, as indicated by their longevity, revenues, and approval ratings, or by the effects they have on their citizens, employees, subordinates or members. Good leadership has always been the exception, not the norm.

So it struck me as a little odd that so much of the recent debate over getting women to “lean in” has focused on getting them to adopt more of these dysfunctional leadership traits. Yes, these are the people we often choose as our leaders — but should they be?

Most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others about their talent for management. This is especially true for women. There is now compelling scientific evidence for the notion that women are more likely to adopt more effective leadership strategies than do men. Most notably, in a comprehensive review of studies, Alice Eagly and colleagues showed that female managers are more likely to elicit respect and pride from their followers, communicate their vision effectively, empower and mentor subordinates, and approach problem-solving in a more flexible and creative way (all characteristics of “transformational leadership”), as well as fairly reward direct reports. In contrast, male managers are statistically less likely to bond or connect with their subordinates, and they are relatively more inept at rewarding them for their actual performance. Although these findings may reflect a sampling bias that requires women to be more qualified and competent than men in order to be chosen as leaders, there is no way of really knowing until this bias is eliminated.

In sum, there is no denying that women’s path to leadership positions is paved with many barriers including a very thick glass ceiling. But a much bigger problem is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men, and the fact that we tend to equate leadership with the very psychological features that make the average man a more inept leader than the average woman. The result is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence while punishing women for their competence, to everybody’s detriment.


tomas premuzicWritten by: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, and a faculty member at Columbia University. Original text.


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The Humble Leader http://conscious-manager.com/the-humble-leader.html http://conscious-manager.com/the-humble-leader.html#respond Tue, 30 Apr 2013 19:11:54 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=905 "The chief executive who knows his strengths and weaknesses as a leader is likely to be far more effective than the one who remains blind to them. He also is on the road to humility, that priceless attitude of openness to life that can help a manager absorb mistakes, failures, or personal shortcomings." ---  John Adair quoted by Henry O. Dorman in The Speaker's Book of Quotations (1987)

“The chief executive who knows his strengths and weaknesses as a leader is likely to be far more effective than the one who remains blind to them. He also is on the road to humility, that priceless attitude of openness to life that can help a manager absorb mistakes, failures, or personal shortcomings.” — John Adair quoted by Henry O. Dorman in The Speaker’s Book of Quotations (1987)

Humility is one of those leadership traits you do not see as frequently as you should. Humility is often perceived as a weakness when, in fact, it can be a tremendous asset. The leader who is humble rarely allows the power of their position to cloud their judgement. The leader who recognizes they are not perfect creates an environment where those around them feel comfortable making mistakes and taking chances.

What is your tendency when someone starts explaining something you think you already know? Do you interrupt to make sure they know you already know what they want to talk about? The next time this happens, try something new. Listen. Let them finish their explanation. Probe for more detail. You might be surprised and discover something you did not already know. You might walk away with more knowledge than had you interrupted them to stroke your own ego.

The humble leader assumes they do not know all the answers and allows people to explain things to them. They look for the opportunity to learn something new and they use every opportunity to make others feel valued. The humble leader knows the world around them is changing faster than they can keep up and is grateful for the opportunity to learn something new or reinforce knowledge they might already possess.

This is not to say that you need to act stupid to be humble. There is no harm in someone walking away knowing you are knowledgeable so long as the process did not leave them feeling “less than you.” Sharing your wisdom is important, but must be done in a way that “lifts the other person up.”

How do you do that? Simply weave your wisdom into the conversation without letting it dominate the conversation. Ask lots of questions and when they give their answer, validate them first, then add your comments laden with your knowledge and guidance.

In the act of being humble, you make others feel important and valued. That is the gift of the humble leader. Focus on your humility and you will find it can lift a weight from your shoulders. It takes a lot of effort to pretend you know it all. Besides, it is more refreshing being around people with some humility. Arrogance gets old fast.


Written by: Leroy McCarty is a student, teacher, and freelance writer on the topic of leadership living in Overland Park, Kansas.

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Humble Leadership (The global-leadership industry needs re-engineering) http://conscious-manager.com/humble-leadership-the-global-leadership-industry-needs-re-engineering.html http://conscious-manager.com/humble-leadership-the-global-leadership-industry-needs-re-engineering.html#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2013 15:40:54 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=876

The phrase ”humble leadership” is not an oxymoron. While many people immediately conjure-up an image of the ever so confident, bombastic extrovert without an ounce of humility as the picture of what constitutes a real leader, nothing could be further from the truth.

THE two most popular words in the business lexicon are probably “global” and “leadership”. Put them together and people in suits start to salivate. That is perhaps why more than 1,000 corporate bosses are flocking to Davos, a Swiss ski resort, this week. There, at the annual bash of the World Economic Forum (WEF), they sip vin des glaciers with some 50 heads of state and 300 cabinet ministers. Whatever the topic, from deficits to deadly diseases, the talk is all of providing “global leadership”. And not just in the short term: the WEF rigorously selects and nurtures “Young Global Leaders” to form a “next-generation leadership community that is mission-led and principle-driven”.

The rise of the rootless

The cult of the global leader is spreading. Business schools are full of it. INSEAD calls itself “the business school for the world” and has campuses in Singapore and Abu Dhabi as well as Fontainebleau. Fuqua School of Business at Duke University boasts that it is “the world’s first legitimately global business school”; it has campuses in six countries. Big firms no longer aspire merely to train competent managers. They pride themselves on their ability to select and train leaders for global roles.

If leadership has a secret sauce, it may well be humility. A humble boss understands that there are things he doesn’t know. He listens: not only to the other bigwigs in Davos, but also to the kind of people who don’t get invited, such as his customers.

This is not all guff. Many industries are globalising fast, creating waves of disruption. Parochial companies may perish. Global ones complain that a shortage of global talent impedes their growth, especially in emerging markets. Yet they rapidly burn through what global talent they have: by one estimate, nearly 80% of CEOs of S&P 500 firms are ousted before retirement.

So there is clearly a need for global leadership. But when the public look at what is on offer, they are not impressed. Many of the bankers and politicians caught dozing by the financial crisis were regulars at Davos. Ordinary folk trust Davos Man no more than they would a lobbyist for the Worldwide Federation of Weasels. A survey by Edelman, a public-relations firm, finds that only 18% of people trust business leaders to tell the truth. For political leaders, the figure is 13%.

What can be done? Much of the answer lies in giving the little guys better tools to keep Davos Man in check: stricter accountability for government leaders, sounder regulations to curb corporate abuses. But there is also a case for reforming the global-leadership industry. The people who run it need to think hard about what they mean by both globalisation and leadership.

People whose jobs require constant whizzing through airports often overestimate the extent of globalisation. Most other folk live in the same country all their lives. Most trade occurs within national borders. Nearly all politics is local. Company bosses who fail to notice this may underestimate political risks or ignore cultural differences, and such errors may prove disastrous. The best global leaders need to immerse themselves in local cultures.

Leadership has always been a slippery concept, and is getting slipperier by the day. In the West, as deference collapses and knowledge workers rise, companies have flattened their management hierarchies. But many non-Western companies continue to believe in hierarchy. In India and China, leaders are often lofty figures and companies have lots of rungs to be climbed. And disruptive innovation can put a premium on command-and-control. Apple thrived as a dictatorship under Steve Jobs; Nokia’s consensus-seeking leaders let the firm crumble.

Global-leadership gurus also need to think more carefully about the relationship between business and the wider world. It sounds noble to promise, as practically every boss in Davos does, that your company will solve all manner of problems unrelated to its core business. For companies in emerging markets, this may make sense: if they do not build a road to their mine in a remote area, no one else will. In rich countries, however, governments leave fewer gaps that so obviously need filling. Talk of social responsibility needs to be realistic: it is more dangerous to promise too much than too little.

There are signs that the global-leadership industry is trying to shape up. Harvard Business School obliges its students to spend time in other countries. Companies increasingly expect their high-flyers to spend time running far-flung subsidiaries. Henkel, a German chemical-maker, insists that executives live in at least two different countries before being considered for promotion. Nestlé, a Swiss food company, boasts executive board members from eight different countries. The WEF urges charities to learn from businesses and vice versa.

Management gurus are producing new measuring devices: the Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) project has surveyed more than 17,000 managers in 62 countries to identify cultural differences that leaders ought to know about. Americans are unusually assertive, apparently, and Brazilians surprisingly unconcerned about the future. There are many project managements tools that can help monitor the tasks and also have a clear view as to how much progress has happened in work. Learn more about basecamp alternative software for free, if you are looking for a modern project management solution.

World leaders with wings of wax

But there is still a flaw with the very notion of global leadership. Abraham Lincoln observed that “nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Similar temptations afflict those who are given the title of “young global leader”. Clever businesspeople have a tendency to be arrogant at the best of the times; telling them that they are masters of the universe can only magnify it. Arrogance breeds mistakes: look at all the empire-building bosses who attempt ambitious mergers despite ample evidence that such mergers usually fail.

If leadership has a secret sauce, it may well be humility. A humble boss understands that there are things he doesn’t know. He listens: not only to the other bigwigs in Davos, but also to the kind of people who don’t get invited, such as his customers.


Schumpeter: The global-leadership industry needs re-engineering
Jan 26th 2013

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Being proactive http://conscious-manager.com/being-proactive.html http://conscious-manager.com/being-proactive.html#respond Sat, 01 Dec 2012 18:24:06 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=856

Real freedom is creative, proactive, and will take me into new territories. I am not free if my freedom is predicated on reacting to my past. — Kenny Loggins

1. We can decide within ourselves how all that happens to us is going to affect us.

2. Between stimulus and response is our freedom to choose our response.

3. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.

4. The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of the proactive person.

5. I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.

6. It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.

7. What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.

8. It is inspiring to realize that in choosing our response to circumstances, we can powerfully affect our circumstances.

9. Look at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation. It’s not what they’re not doing or should be doing that’s the issue. The issue is our own chosen response to them and what we should be doing.

10. We are responsible for our own effectiveness, for our own happiness, and ultimately, for most of our circumstances.

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Beware the “Busy Manager” http://conscious-manager.com/beware-the-busy-manager.html http://conscious-manager.com/beware-the-busy-manager.html#respond Sun, 23 Sep 2012 17:19:38 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=813 Keep yourself busy if you want to avoid depression. For me, inactivity is the enemy. --- Matt Lucas

Keep yourself busy if you want to avoid depression. For me, inactivity is the enemy. — Matt Lucas

Our findings on managerial behavior should frighten you: Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. In other words, a mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner.”

Focus and Energy Bruch and Ghoshal have studied the behavior of managers in almost a dozen companies over the last ten years. Sony, LG Electronics, and Lufthansa were among those included. Lufthansa was especially interesting because during the ten years included in the study the company went from the brink of bankruptcy to a record profit of DM 2.5 billion. This was accomplished by the leadership of Lufthansa trusting their managers to use a combination of energy and focus to reach goals the managers themselves set.

Managers that fall into the other quadrants, by contrast, are usually just spinning their wheels; some procrastinate, others feel no emotional connection to their work (disengaged), and still others are easily distracted from the task at hand. Although they look busy, they lack either the focus or the energy required for making any sort of meaningful change.

Managers that fall into the other quadrants, by contrast, are usually just spinning their wheels; some procrastinate, others feel no emotional connection to their work (disengaged), and still others are easily distracted from the task at hand. Although they look busy, they lack either the focus or the energy required for making any sort of meaningful change.

  • How does a manager use time effectively and efficiently?
  • How do phone calls and emails fit a manager’s daily work?
  • How can creative approaches to complex, messy problems be devised in the midst of “do it now” time frames?
  • How can one avoid “active non-action” and nonproductive busyness? This article uses two traits to look at how managers make things happen: focus and energy.

“Think of focus as concentrated attention – the ability to zero in on a goal and see the task through to completion.” Managers that are focused choose what to respond to. They are not sidetracked by life’s variables and clearly understand what they want to accomplish. These managers commit to a manageable number of projects and are more able to give those projects the attention needed to successfully be completed.

“Think of the second characteristic – energy – as the vigor that is fueled by intense personal commitment.”Managers that possess energy are the ones that can follow through even with impossible deadlines or a heavier workload than anticipated.

Both focus and energy are necessary and valuable traits in a manager. “Focus without energy devolves into listless execution or leads to burnout. Energy without focus dissipates into purposeless busyness or in its most destructive form, a series of wasteful failures.” “The following exhibit “The Focus/Energy Matrix” identifies four types of behavior: disengagement, procrastination, distraction, and purposefulness.”

 The Procrastinators

“Of all the managers we studied, some 30% suffered from low levels of both energy and focus; we call these managers the procrastinators.”

They may do what is required at work, communicating and going to meetings but no initiative is taken, performance is stagnant and creativity is lacking. Some of the ways this can happen is just non-action; sometimes fear and insecurity can sabotage moving forward or some people are just passive, a state that psychologist Martin Seligman called “learned helplessness.” This procrastinator title goes to those who do not act, either from personality type or being defeated by organizational factors. At Lufthansa, fewer managers were procrastinators during the chaotic and difficult restructuring time period. After circumstances returned to a more normal keel and more formal procedures were re-established, many managers lost both focus and energy and became more passive. They also stopped setting goals for themselves. To Bruch and Ghoshal, this reinforced the idea that organizational factors can play as important a role as individual personality. The Disengaged “Roughly 20% of managers fall into the disengaged category; they exhibit high focus but have low levels of energy. Some of these managers are simply exhausted and lack the inner resources to reenergize themselves. Others feel unable to commit to tasks that hold little meaning for them. Disengaged managers have strong reservations about the jobs they are asked to do; as a result, they approach them halfheartedly.” There is a “defensive avoidance” in this group, a form of denial. The manager may believe that the problem doesn’t exist; therefore, there is nothing to be done. Other managers may just refuse to take action, whether to maintain the status quo or to avoid discomfort. “Disengaged managers tend to be extremely tense…. They are often plagued by feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, anger, frustration, and alienation… Despite their low levels of energy, these managers suffer from burnout far more frequently than their colleagues do. And they are easily overwhelmed by unexpected events.” Managers at Lufthansa that were in the disengaged mode refused to take action when needed. One manager fully understood the threat of bankruptcy but felt his first job was to protect his workers. He did not take the steps necessary for the health of the organization and did not commit to the needed changes. His actions did not contribute to the turnaround, but did stand in the way of a healthy recovery.

The Distracted

By far the largest group of managers we studied – more than 40% – fall into the distracted quadrant: those well intentioned, highly energetic but unfocused people who confuse frantic motion with constructive action.”

These managers are distracted and do not take the time for reflection on the current situation. Distracted mangers may bind themselves to traditional functions and miss what would, in reality, have worked much better. These managers may also be shortsighted and overcommitted with multiple projects. They may have good intentions that fade or get done poorly. Some of these managers are reacting to the pressure in the work place to just be busy. Some companies reward frantic activity and this is reflected as the MO from the senior executives all the way down. One HR executive the authors observed enthusiastically took on three major projects while doing his usual responsibilities. As time went on his distracted state became obvious: he totally let go of one project, gave one project to another manager and did finish one project, but did a poor job.

The Purposeful

“The smallest proportion of managers we studied – around 10% – were both highly energetic and highly focused.

Not only do such managers put in more effort than their counterparts, but they also achieve critical, long-term goals more often.” Purposeful managers understand themselves better than the normal person. They proceed on a project clearly with a singular purpose. Their interim choices are carefully made. Purposeful managers do not lose their focus and energy when the crisis is passed. They are able to maintain what it takes to “welcome opportunities and pursue new goals.” These managers know how to protect their energy and focus. Time is valued and planned. Some limit communication (emails, visitors, and phone calls) to specific time periods. Other managers value and schedule “think time.” Finding ways to reduce stress and reenergize are important. It may be through exercise, sharing thoughts and concerns with friends or participating in a hobby like gardening. There is a very defining factor behind the actions of all managers. Purposeful managers make decisions on how to manipulate the environment around them – what resources can be used to meet their goals. Less effective managers are limited by their environment because of lack of imagination, money or manpower.

“Personal volition – the refusal to let other people or organizational constraints set the agenda – is perhaps the subtlest and most important distinction between this group of mangers and all the rest.”

One of Lufthansa’s managers took on the responsibility of improving the relationship between the corporation and labor. He set up regular meetings to build trust for the hard negotiations that needed to take place. Many thought this a waste of valuable time. In the end there was an extraordinary high level of consensus reached, a strike was avoided and the agreement achieved was unique in German history.

Challenge and Choice

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to go to the forest to gather wood, saw it, and nail the planks together. Instead, teach them the desire for the sea.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Success, improving the purposefulness of managers, comes from offering “meaningful challenge and personal choice. Lufthansa’s turnaround began by utilizing these very concepts. In June, 1992, CEO Jürgen Weber brought 20 senior managers, and the entire executive board together. He told these people the bottom line: Lufthansa was on the brink of financial ruin. Weber said he did not have the solution and that the managers would have three days to develop ways to save the company or to decide that it was not possible. Then he and the board members left the room. Chaos reigned for a short time, the managers moving quickly from shock, denial and finger pointing to settling down to real work. They found their own commitment and set far-reaching goals. “They eventually embraced 130 radical changes and implemented 70% of them during the transformation.” Lufthansa recouped a DM 750 million loss and went on to achieve a record profit. What worked was the combination of challenge and choice. Crisis does not have to be the only stimulus for creating a place for challenge and choice. Sony created its Vaio computer by this very process – a target was set and mangers had the freedom to figure out how to give “digital dream kids” what they wanted. Because of this, the employees could fully commit to the project, were willing to be innovative and worked long hours.

“When corporate leaders make a sincere effort to give managers both challenge and choice, most managers can learn to direct their energy and improve their focus – and ultimately find their way to the sea.”

How purposeful are you? We invite you to challenge your assumptions by completing the brief questionnaire that follows.

By Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal

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Inquiring Leader http://conscious-manager.com/inquiry-leader.html http://conscious-manager.com/inquiry-leader.html#respond Fri, 08 Jul 2011 09:59:36 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=702

A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value. Isaac Asimov

The term “inquiring leader” refers to leaders at any level who are self-aware, curious, solution-oriented, and value asking questions as a core leadership skill. In general, the model and concept of inquiring leadership is meant to complement, supplement, enrich, and operationalize effective leadership thinking and behavior that lead to desired results. Thus, inquiring leaders demonstrate the thinking, communicating, and collaboration skills associated with authentic, strategic, servant, and visionary leadership—all of which are also associated with requisite leadership skills for the 21st century.

Characteristically, inquiring leaders:

  1. understand that the quantity, quality, and intention of people’s questions largely determines their ability to learn, think critically and strategically, build and maintain relationships, gather information, make decisions, solve problems, manage conflict, and drive positive change and effective results.
  2. recognize that “great results begin with great questions” and that “every question missed is a potential crisis waiting to happen.”

    The term “inquiring leader” refers to leaders at any level who are self-aware, curious, solution-oriented, and value asking questions as a core leadership skill. In general, the model and concept of inquiring leadership is meant to complement, supplement, enrich, and operationalize effective leadership thinking and behavior that lead to desired results.

  3. ask questions of themselves and others in ways that are constructive rather than critical, that seek to uncover and challenge assumptions, and that promote new thinking and possibility as well as responsibility and accountability.
  4. listen carefully and respectfully (especially when not agreeing with what they hear). This listening is focused by solution-seeking questions such as,” What can I learn?” “What’s useful about this?” and “What are our goals?” They do not listen with problem-oriented, blaming questions such as, “Whose fault is it?”
  5. solicit honest feedback, comprehensive facts, and multiple perspectives.
  6. create an inquiring culture in their organizations and on their teams by encouraging people to ask questions of them, each other, customers, and stakeholders.
  7. Accordingly, inquiring leaders: are self-reflective, self-correcting, and committed to learning from mistakes and failures. They value continuous learning, growth, and development for themselves and others.
  8. are comfortable with “not knowing” and “not being right;” they have humility.
  9. have high emotional, social, and moral intelligence, are proactive and responsive rather than reactive, and are skillful with self management.
  10. see the “big picture’ and think short-term, long-term, and systemically.

Author: Marilee Adams, MSW, Ph.D., is an author, executive coach, facilitator, and professional speaker. She is president and founder of the Inquiry Institute.

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Uncovering the leadership lessons of the Bhagavad Gita http://conscious-manager.com/uncovering-the-leadership-lessons-of-the-bhagavad-gita.html http://conscious-manager.com/uncovering-the-leadership-lessons-of-the-bhagavad-gita.html#respond Fri, 17 Jun 2011 19:40:03 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=682

"Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion." - Sanjaya in Bhagavad Gita 18.78


The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Eastern philosophical literature. It presents the counsel of Krishna to Arjuna – two prominent leaders of the epic of Mahabharata. Mahabharata is the epic of the feud between two warring clans – the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Before the battle of Kurukshetra, Krishna, who is a friend and the charioteer of Arjuna, drives the chariot to the middle of the battle field, so Arjuna can observe his army and his enemies. Seeing his own kinsmen lined up against to fight him, Arjuna trembles at the thought of killing them. Krishna cajoles Arjuna, “Nothing is higher than a war against evil. A warrior such as you should be pleased with such a war, as it leads to heaven.” Krishna‘s discourses are described in the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. At the end of his discourses, Krishna successfully convinces Arjuna to fight the battle of Kurukshetra.

The Bhagavad Gita has been predominantly studied in the contexts of philosophy, theology and literature. Many scholars believe that the Bhagavad Gita was written in as early as 3000 BC. Scholars through out the ages have studied the Gita with great interest. Scholars like Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau have quoted the Bhagavad Gita in their writings. Peter Senge, one of the most prominent management thinkers of our time, has quoted the Gita is his “Fifth Discipline” and “Presence.”This ancient text has never been studied in the leadership context. If we look closely, the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita contains many leadership lessons that are similar to contemporary leadership theories and practices. Consider some of these lessons embedded within the Gita:

  • Leaders should embrace rather than avoid formidable challenges because they bring out the leaders’ greatest strength
  • Leaders should be resilient in their actions and should not be weakened by pain and pleasure.
  • Selfish desires and animosity obscure the purpose of leadership.
  • Leaders achieve lasting power and glory by exercising compassion and selfless service.
  • Effective leaders do not lead by fear or anger.
  • Character is core to effective leadership.
  • Leaders need to be aware of the self and the surroundings.

Many contemporary leadership topics such as emotional intelligence, situational leadership, character and integrity were already discussed in the Bhagavad Gita thousands of years ago. These topics were discussed in a philosophical context, as management science as we know today did not exist then. It is also intriguing to find other management concepts embedded in the Gita. Thousands of years before Frederick W. Taylor defined work and worker, and Peter F. Drucker defined knowledge and knowledge worker, the topics of work and knowledge were already in the Bhagavad Gita.

Among many leadership lessons the Bhagavad Gita has to offer, two concepts stand out more prominently, and deserve a closer examination. These concepts are discussed below.

First Know Thyself

The Bhagavad Gita suggests that leaders cannot lead effectively unless they know their own selves. The understanding of the self is not only about understanding our physical and psychological states. This understanding goes further down to our deepest levels of consciousness. According to the ancient Vedic wisdom of the East, the human consciousness is not limited to our physical and psychological states, but it extends much farther. Psychologists suggest that the deeper level of consciousness is exemplified by our dream experience. When we dream, we can

O son of Prtha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I a need to obtain anything — and yet I am engaged in prescribed duties. – Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 3.22

hear voices and see colors, but these perceptions are not tied to our physical senses. Further levels of consciousness can be understood by going into a deep meditative state. When we meditate, we experience absolute stillness. Many define this state as the state of nothingness – something that has no physical dimension to it. People who have mastered meditation tell accounts of other-worldly experience when they are in a deep meditative state. Scientists have found remarkable psychological and physiological improvement of the human body when the mind is in a meditative state.Why is meditation so important in this context? The ancient wisdom suggests that our true potential and purpose can be realized by understanding our true selves – the quantum level of our existence. Many wisdom traditions refer to this level as the soul. The potentiality of our quantum self is analogous to the scientific developments we have witnessed in the past century: science was able to achieve more when scientists were able to understand it at the quantum level. The Bhagavad Gita suggests that we can find our true potential and purpose by understanding our quantum self. The same principle applies to leadership. We can become effective leaders when we understand our quantum self. Today, we understand leadership as something that is not only about leading a nation, a corporation, or a big entity, but it is about influencing and guiding others. Leadership is about helping others to find their potential and purpose. According to the Bhagavad Gita, it is not possible to become an effective leader if the leader does not understand his or her own self, and does not understand his or her own potential and purpose.

Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." - Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 3.21


The Bhagavad Gita recommends meditation to connect to our true selves. Meditation is the state of being in peace with our inner selves regardless of our physical state, events, or surroundings. By meditating, we tap into the vast amount of energy that is available to us simply by connecting to the deepest level of our existence. Again, this is very analogous to the scientific developments. No one can argue now that atomic energy is more potent than anything else known in this world. The atomic or quantum level of our existence has the same potential, according to the ancient wisdom of the East. By harnessing the potential of our quantum self, we can understand our potential and purpose in this world. This knowledge is essential if we wish to be effective leaders.

The Bhagavad Gita also suggests that true meditation is not possible without practicing good discipline and developing a good character. In other words, true potential and purpose is not possible without good discipline and good character. This is an important topic in today’s world when leadership is tainted by unethical and immoral issues. In its eighteen chapters, the Bhagavad Gita repeatedly talks about developing a sattvic character. In Sanskrit, sattvic is righteousness. The Gita defines sattvic as the character of harmony and purity. Sattvic character radiates peace and happiness. It offers selfless service and has a high level of emotional intelligence. Without a high level of emotional intelligence, the Gita suggests that we cannot attain a true meditative state. If we become victim of our own emotions, we cannot lead an effective life, let alone lead effectively. Today’s leadership authorities also suggest that effective leadership flourishes only when leaders have a high level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, abbreviated as EQ, is a discipline of understanding our selves, especially the emotions that brew in our mind. EQ is the awareness and ability to manage our emotions in a healthy manner.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna defines three specific disciplines that are required for effective leadership: discipline of learning, discipline of speaking properly and discipline of equanimity. All of these disciplines are important for effective leadership. Today’s leadership authorities also agree that effective leaders have to be effective learners. Leadership is not only about teaching people to follow a certain path or to do a certain thing, but it is also about learning things to be taught.

Likewise, without effective communication skills, leadership cannot become effective. Krishna says, the most important part of communication is to communicate with honesty and with respect toward others. For leaders to be effective, they must be able to motivate their followers when they speak, so they can guide them toward the common vision and goals. Leaders like Gandhi, Dr. King and Kennedy became known as effective leaders mainly because they communicated elegantly at all times. In the business world, we know leaders like Jack Welch, Andy Groves and John Chambers as great communicators. When these leaders communicated to their followers, they were always consistent on the vision and goals they presented to their organizations.

The discipline of equanimity suggests that we have to keep steady composure at good and bad times. The Bhagavad Gita says that we should not be overtly excited in good times and overtly depressed in bad times. Keeping a composed mindset at all times helps us to achieve more peace and happiness in our lives.

Renunciation – the ultimate leadership challenge

The eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita culminates with an important lesson for effective leadership; this lesson is about leadership renunciation. The Gita defines renunciation as abstaining from selfish acts (sanyasa in Sanskrit) and detaching from the results of an action (tyaga in Sanskrit). Krishna mentions specific areas where true renunciation must be practiced, such as:

  • Renounce negative thoughts, words, and actions
  • Renounce inequality and promote equality
  • Renounce selfish desires and exercise selfless service
  • Renounce indiscipline, dishonesty, and lazy attitude; and exercise integrity and proactive-ness
  • Renounce arrogance and ignorance, and be open-minded
  • Renounce momentary happiness that is derived from selfish behaviors. Instead, seek happiness that is long-lasting and beneficial to all.

The definition of renunciation, according to the Bhagavad Gita, suggests that leaders must practice selfless giving and strive for the common good. This concept is ironic in today’s context as leadership in general is shrouded with deceit, dishonesty and selfish acts. We hardly see leaders who sacrifice their authority, position and incentives for the benefit of their people. Many leaders lure their followers with hefty promises only to be forgotten once they capture their leadership positions. Many leaders promise prosperity only to lose focus on people and their well-being.

Practicing renunciation requires focusing on people and demonstrating compassion toward them. Today, we know servant leadership as a popular leadership concept. Servant leadership is similar to the concept of leadership renunciation. Servitude and compassion enable leadership renunciation, and also enable effective leadership.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna defines the meaning of true renunciation. He says, true renunciation is one that is undertaken with courage and without selfish attachments. By acknowledging one’s responsibilities and doing everything in his or her capacity to fulfill those responsibilities, a person performs a true renunciation. When leaders acknowledge their responsibilities, there is no judgment of the nature of work. They do not worry about the pleasantness or unpleasantness of the nature of work. This is true leadership renunciation according to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna also explains that not all renunciations are true and meaningful. He says, to abstain from one’s responsibilities is called a deceptive renunciation. Shying away from one’s responsibilities over apprehension and anxiety is not a meaningful renunciation.

If we look at the lives of effective leaders, they have demonstrated these characteristics. Mother Teresa left her homeland to serve the poor people of India. Dr. King spent his entire lifetime advocating racial harmony. Albert Schweitzer left a good life in France to serve the poor people in Africa. Henry Dunant gave up his wealthy business to serve the war victims, and established the Red Cross movement. Nelson Mandela spent twenty seven years in prison to fight against South African apartheid. The fourteenth Dalai Lama became the messenger of world peace and harmony while remaining in exile away from his homeland Tibet.

In the business world, there are a few exemplary leaders who have demonstrated leadership renunciation. In 1995, a large fire destroyed the Malden Mills – a privately held fabric mill based in Massachusetts. Aaron Feuerstein – the owner of the Malden Mills could have retired lavishly with the money he had received from the insurance payout. Instead, he decided to rebuild the factory while keeping all employees on the payroll. Lee Iacocca – the former CEO of Chrysler – cut his own salary to $1 per year in order to reduce the financial burdens of his company. More recently, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway gave away billions of dollars of their personal wealth for philanthropical causes.

The leadership lessons of Krishna, as described in the Bhagavad Gita, attest that the subject of leadership was profound in the ancient East and its principles are still applicable to business and organizations today.


Author: Pujan Roka(www.pujanroka.com) is the author of “Bhagavad Gita on Effective Leadership: Timeless Wisdom for Leaders.”


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Dedicate Yourself To Lifelong Learning http://conscious-manager.com/dedicate-yourself-to-lifelong-learning.html http://conscious-manager.com/dedicate-yourself-to-lifelong-learning.html#respond Wed, 18 May 2011 04:08:02 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=631 lifelong learning
You have more brains, more ability, and more intelligence than you are using at the moment. You are far smarter than you can imagine. If you intelligently apply your mind to your situation, you can overcome obstacles, solve problems, and achieve goals.

Your mind is like a muscle, it only develops with use. Just as you have to strain your physical muscles to build them, you have to work your mental muscles to build your mind as well. The good news is that the more you learn, the more you can learn. Just like the more you play a sport, the better you get at the sport, training is also important and the use of supplements as Quinnova also really help with this. The more you dedicate yourself to lifelong learning, the easier and faster it is for you to learn even more.

The second key to lifelong learning is to listen to audio programs and lectures, especially in your car as you drive from place to place. The average person sits in his or her car 500 to 1000 hours per year. This is the equivalent of twelve to twenty-four 40 hour weeks, or as much as three to six months of working time.

Leaders are learners. Continuous learning is the key to success. Lifelong learning is the minimum requirement for success in your field, or in any field. Make a decision today that you are going to become a student of your service and that you are going to continue learning and becoming better in that field for the rest of your life.

There are several keys to lifelong learning.

The first key is that you get up and you read in your field for 30 to 60 minutes each day. Reading is to the mind as exercise is to the body. When you read for an hour each day, this will translate into about one book per week. One book per week will translate into about fifty books per year. Fifty books per year will translate into 500 books over the next ten years.

Since the average adult reads less than one book per year, when you begin reading one hour per day, this alone will give you an incredible edge in your field. You will become one of the smartest and most competent devotees in your service by simply reading one hour each day.

The second key to lifelong learning is to listen to audio programs and lectures, especially in your car as you drive from place to place. The average person sits in his or her car 500 to 1000 hours per year. This is the equivalent of twelve to twenty-four 40 hour weeks, or as much as three to six months of working time. This is the equivalent to one to two full time semesters at university. Turn your car or a bus or a train into a learning machine. Turn it into a university on wheels. Never let your car motor be running without an educational audio program playing. Many people have become successful through the miracle of audio learning. This is why audio learning is often called the greatest breakthrough in education since the invention of the printing press.

A third key to lifelong learning is for you to take every course and seminar you can possibly find that can help you to be better in your life and service.

The combination of books, audio programs, and seminars will enable you to save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars and many years of hard work in achieving the same level of success. Many people have actually become successful as the result of a single book, a single audio program, or a single seminar.

Make a decision today to become a lifelong learner. You will be amazed at the effect it has on your devotional life and service.

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Leadership is a choice not a position: 4 steps by Covey http://conscious-manager.com/leadership-is-a-choice-not-a-position-4-steps-by-covey.html http://conscious-manager.com/leadership-is-a-choice-not-a-position-4-steps-by-covey.html#respond Sat, 05 Feb 2011 21:32:24 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=561 \

covey on leadership

Leadership is a choice not a position

Q: What makes a great leader?

A: My definition of leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

Q: You often say that leadership is a choice not a position. Can you elaborate on this?

A: Because of the definition I use for leadership, the ability to become such a leader is a choice that any person can make; any parent or grandparent, any teacher, any coach, any co-worker, and friend. When I speak throughout the world, I often ask audiences,

“How many of you had someone in your life that communicated your worth and potential so clearly that it profoundly influenced your life?”

Inevitably over half the people raise their hands. I walk around the room and ask them to share their experience with how it happened, who did it, the impact that it had upon them, and if they, too, are making the choice to do the same with other people. People often become very emotional when they talk about the parent, the coach, the teacher, the formal leader, the friend, the neighbor, or the relative who really became very close to them and communicated to them their worth and potential. This is always an inspiring experience.

Q: Is there a formula for becoming such a leader?

A: I believe there is a formula. They are what we call the four imperatives of leadership.

1. The first is to inspire trust. You build relationships of trust through both your character and competence and you also extend trust to others. You show others that you believe in their capacity to live up to certain expectations, to deliver on promises, and to achieve clarity on key goals. You don’t inspire trust by micromanaging and second guessing every step people make.

2. The second is to clarify purpose. Great leaders involve their people in the communication process to create the goals to be achieved. If people are involved in the process, they psychologically own it and you create a situation where people are on the same page about what is really important—mission, vision, values, and goals.

3. The third is to align systems. This means that you don’t allow there to be conflict between what you say is important and what you measure. For instance, many times organizations claim that people are important but in fact the structures and systems, including accounting, make them an expense or cost center rather than an asset and the most significant resource.

4. The fourth is the fruit of the other three—unleashed talent. When you inspire trust and share a common purpose with aligned systems, you empower people. Their talent is unleashed so that their capacity, their intelligence, their creativity, and their resourcefulness is utilized.

I would add that these are based upon principles that build upon each other rather than techniques or steps that have to be taken independent of each other. These aren’t “management tricks” but real principles that guide a true leaders character.

The world is vastly different today and ever-changing. If we can develop leaders who can withstand and embrace the changing times by deeply rooting themselves in these principles of great leadership, then we can develop great people, great teams and great results.

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Leadership Is NOT Only About You http://conscious-manager.com/leadership-is-not-only-about-you.html http://conscious-manager.com/leadership-is-not-only-about-you.html#respond Tue, 04 Jan 2011 06:46:58 +0000 http://conscious-manager.com/?p=517 In my understanding, leadership is not only about the leader achieving things by engaging people, but also about helping people grow and develop as humans and devotees through these tasks.

Leadership is not only about the leader achieving things by engaging people, but also about helping people grow and develop as humans and devotees through these tasks.

Yes, things need to get done, but if along the way you burn out people by being rude and insensitive about their needs then things will get done only once or twice.

What is more important – growing people or getting things done? This question had been occupying the minds of leaders probably for ages.

If you are a leader of leaders or their coach or mentor, then your main service is to help them succeed in their services. You are no more an order giver but a resource, a facilitator.

Yes, things need to get done, but if along the way you burn out people by being rude and insensitive about their needs then things will get done only once or twice.

I believe you want things get done all the time. That’s why you need to invest in your people. Invest time, energy, support, encouragement, good will, prayers. Their success will be your success. Their success multiplies your success.

How much can you do alone?

If you are convinced you need others’ help to achieve more, then please treat your people with respect. Invest in making them highly successful by helping them develop their character and competence.

In my understanding, leadership is not only about the leader achieving things by engaging people, but also about helping people grow and develop as humans and devotees through these tasks.

This approach can create more leaders who will achieve much more by being leaders (and engaging others) then by just being followers.

Your leadership will be tested by how many leaders you have made.

Your leadership is not only about you, it’s also about the people you lead.

Author: Alex Todorovic, Conscious Coaching

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